Pakistan’s prime minister claims country seeing ‘explosion’ of tourism that needs to be sustainably developed and expanded
Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday claimed tourism in Pakistan had “exploded” for the first time in the country’s history, and stressed the implementation of eco-friendly policies to safeguard natural heritage sites.
Addressing the launch of an eco-tourism agreement between the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government, the World Bank, and Nestle Pakistan, he lamented that unplanned tourism, development, and improper waste disposal was “destroying” the country’s natural beauty. He said the government was working on new legislation to boost eco-friendly tourism for sustainable growth and preservation of the sector.
Citing Murree, Naran, and Nathia Gali, the prime minister said unplanned construction in these areas had reduced tourism. “We have to safeguard these sites from turning into concrete jungles, otherwise no one will come here,” he said. “If we make sure that our tourist sites are clean, they will attract more tourism,” he added.
He hailed the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa for undertaking waste-collection, management and recycling projects, claiming these would help protect Pakistan’s most picturesque sites.
Khan said no tourist site could be successful or sustainable if it did not benefit local residents. “If local people are educated about protecting these sites, because tourism boosts their livelihoods, they will employ efforts to protect them,” he said. “In this way, we will not only preserve tourist sites but will also generate employment,” he added.
The prime minister reiterated his desire to encourage eco-tourism, saying countries like the Maldives and Kenya were utilizing it to both protect their natural heritage and attract more visitors.
He said Pakistan’s northern areas had great potential for skiing resorts, adding that areas like Switzerland earn around $80 billion through similar projects annually. Pakistan, too, can achieve great success in this sector if such resorts are established here, he added.
During the ceremony, the prime minister also unveiled the logo of Travel Responsibly for Experiencing Ecotourism in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Earlier, World Bank Country Director for Pakistan Najy Benhassine told the gathering that the World Bank Group is “keen to continue supporting Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab in their efforts to provide employment opportunities to the youth in the tourism sector.”